At the end of every yoga session, be you in a class or doing your self-practice there should be a final relaxation lasting at least 10 – 15 minutes. This should bring complete physical, mental and spiritual relaxation, which is key to your yoga practice, (that of union with the universal consciousness.). The energy that you have generated during your session needs this time to flow through your whole being, rejuvenating every cell and each part of you as a whole, without the relaxation a large portion of the prana could be lost as you walk straight back into your busy life. But relaxation is not easy for every one, it is a practice within itself a vital one at that which everybody needs to maintain balance, harmony and optimum health. So firstly we have to relax the physical body, we start by lying down on our backs in the position known as savasana. The feet should naturally fall out sideways, the arms about 45 degrees from the body with the palms face upward, the eyes closed. Allow the spine to find its own natural curve but the head should always be inline with the spine. For many it is hard to actually feel the muscles relax as we can always hold tension in the body without realising it. So it is good to tense and release the whole body before starting to really relax deeply. You can start at the toes tensing the toes and work up the body ending up pulling all the facial muscles into the face hold the tension in the whole body and then release. Then we start with the relaxation working into the subconscious, feeling the downward pull of gravity of the body onto the mat bringing you closer to the earth, then you can gently and mentally command yourself to relax each part of the body in such a way as ‘I’m relaxing my toes, my toes are relaxed, I’m relaxing my feet, my feet are relaxed.’ Moving up the body through the legs, hips, back etc you can mention each body part individually and make a mental picture of that body part as you mentally say its name and physically feel that part of your body relax. You can even work through the internal organs depending on how much time you can dedicate to this practice.
Next we have to work on relaxing mentally, the mind is always switching between the past and future and it is hard to catch it and maintain it to be in the present moment, where then it is still distracted by our senses. So one way to calm and relax the mind is to focus your full awareness on the breath, noticing the movements of the tummy rising and falling as you breath and the subtler movements of the chest. Notice the speed of your breath and then try to slow it down by counting 5 counts for the inhalation and 5 for the exhalation or a number that is suitable for you. You will need your full awareness following your breath from the tip of your nose all the way up through the nostrils and down deep into the lungs and then back out again, this full awareness with the breath will calm the mind and give it the vital rest it needs, leaving you feeling refreshed.
Now we need to relax spiritually also, meaning that the mind has a carefree and contented manor with no anxieties and stresses. To do this you can make a visualisation of a calm deep blue lake, no waves just still water, it is timeless and unchanging, all is completely still, you will find your inner calm and peace.
So after your asanas don’t rush off of your mat and off back into the world, you are not ready yet, give yourself this time for the 3 steps of relaxation for the well being of your whole self. It is often the case with self practice that the relaxation is left out because of time constraints and it is thought to be the least important part of the practice, actually it is the most important part, the body and mind can only be pushed for so long before the whole system starts to break down with stress, you can prevent this by emphasising the importance on your relaxation within your practice.
So enjoy your savasana and go and reeeeeeeeeelaaaaaaaaaax!
Eternally grateful for this most precious practice,
May you all find your strength and peace within your stillness.
Mangala / Nicky.